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Some restaurants no longer want to split the bill, others do. How did that happen?

In the Barisdam restaurant in Kortemark it is literally on the menu: “Per table, 1 bill. If you pay separately, a transaction fee will be charged.” But also in other restaurants it is becoming increasingly difficult to divide the bill among several people, and even impossible to split the VAT receipt. However, customers often ask this to submit their restaurant costs professionally. That didn’t seem like a problem in the past, why now?

“The white cash register,” all restaurateurs cite as the reason. It was introduced in the catering industry in 2016 to combat fraud. In the past, a restaurant owner could easily earn black money: if customers did not ask for proof of payment or a VAT invoice, he could decide not to declare that income. Now the restaurant owner is obliged to enter all orders in a cash register that records every sales transaction and is connected online to the Federal Public Service Finance.

The taxman’s fault

“The rules have gradually become stricter,” says Joachim Boudens of the Hertog Jan Restaurant Group. “For example, the tax authorities now impose on us the principle that we may only issue one VAT receipt per table. This means that we can no longer split that receipt. Paying the bill with multiple people is still possible.”

In restaurant Boo Raan in Knokke, two or more tickets are still delivered per table: how is that possible? Owner Patrick Delanghe explains: “In the white cash register system, a pro forma ticket is first issued, allowing the customer to check his bill and an error can be corrected. Changes are still possible at that time. If a table is then asked to receive two receipts, an extra table can be created in the system, allowing you to transfer some of the orders to that new table. However, the amount on both tickets will not be exactly the same. After all, the bill cannot simply be split into two equal parts.”

“Redistributing the order over two tickets also requires extra work,” Boudens adds. “And especially if you have a large business that is full, that is not easy. That may be why a number of restaurateurs charge an extra fee. At the same time, this cost also acts as a disincentive to requesting a split bill.”

Delanghe points out that paying with multiple bank cards is in any case an extra cost for the restaurant: “If you carry out two transactions for a certain amount with a bank card instead of one, you pay more to the issuer of that bank card. But we do not pass this on to our customers.”

All those rules

Many restaurateurs also believe that there are already so many rules in the catering industry, and so many special wishes from customers (allergies, intolerances, vegetarian, vegan), that the split bill can no longer be accommodated.

Jurgen Lijcops from Glass restaurant in Antwerp sees it differently: “Compared to other problems in the catering industry, splitting the bill is a small matter. Of course, the question must come before the receipt has been printed, otherwise we cannot do anything anymore. But we see that as a service. Of course we have a small restaurant with only twenty seats, I can imagine that it is different if you have to serve a hundred customers.” He has some advice for people who want to split the bill: “Say that immediately upon entering, then the restaurateur can provide it in his cash register system.”

“Then you still have to decide among yourselves who will take care of that one bottle of wine,” Delanghe points out. “Because sharing the cost of a bottle is no longer possible.” Boudens points out another difficulty: “The cash register system also controls the kitchen, and if you create multiple tables from one table in that system, it appears to the kitchen as if the orders come from different tables. While they have to end up on the same table at the same time.”

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